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posted by martyb on Sunday December 13 2015, @05:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-static-at-all dept.

Silviu Stahie reports via Softpedia

Many of the new SoC solutions [...] have FM Radio functionalities, but Google doesn't provide any kind of API for Android devices. It's basically just something that some companies could implement if they had the time or the drive to do it properly.

[...] Most [...] things are usually difficult when [they haven't] been done before. It's true that Radio FM functions have been available on older devices, but modern devices are not doing it, so there is little to no documentation on how to proceed.

A developer from the community is now working to get this function working on Ubuntu phones, and he's already enlisted the help of the Ubuntu developers. As it turns out, this has been talked about before, but for now, it's not a high priority.

Some of the Ubuntu phones, like the two BQ devices that are now available on the market, have Mediatek hardware and they are capable for[sic] Radio FM functions--at least in theory. What's more interesting, is that they should also be able to transmit, not only to receive.

"MediaTek (Aquaris E4.5 and E5) decided to implement custom kernel drivers with a custom character device (/dev/fm) and custom ioctl commands. There seem to be userspace libraries (libfm*) including a JNI wrapper in /system/lib of the Android container on our Ubuntu phones", developer sturmflut wrote on the official mailing list.

The ideal situation would be to allow users to initialize and tune the FM radio on the Aquaris E4.5 and E5 devices and to link this functionality to the media hub. It will take a while, but it's quite possible that FM Radio will be one of the numerous features that you can only find in Ubuntu phones.

Last Summer, Jack Wallen at TechRepublic reported:

[More after the break.]

- AT&T to activate FM Radio chips next year

What if you want to hear a local radio personality? Or want to hear your local NPR channel? What if you happen to be in a college town and want to enjoy the hippest tunes spinning off the platters of the alt college station?

[...] If your carrier is AT&T, you wait until next year when every Android device with the AT&T logo will be sold with their FM chips activated. That's right, good old FM radio is set for a mobile comeback.

...or as much of a comeback as the aging technology can.

[...] According to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), this will open up an entire world to a technology that has been so desperately in need of a boost. Consider this: FM broadcast radio will now enjoy song tagging. This could wind up being a massive boon for the music industry.

Consider this: You're listening to FM radio on your Android device and a song comes on that you fall in love with. You immediately tag the song and then, say, Amazon opens so that you can purchase the song, or Spotify opens so you can add it to a playlist.

[...] [Additionally, say] you're walking along listening to FM radio and an emergency is pushed to your device giving you detailed information on the threat as well as what to do. That's important stuff and should be a part of mobility.

This plan was actually put in place years ago and groups like FreeRadioOnMyPhone.org[1] had planned on filing an anti-trust suit to get a mandate from Congress. Now, it seems as if that's not going to be necessary.

[...] Once this happens. AT&T users will be able to make use of apps like NextRadio to deliver free FM broadcasts to their devices.

Of course, this isn't the first such deal. Sprint had already inked something similar to light up FM radio chips to prove the concept could work. But the deal with AT&T is the first such agreement with a large-scale carrier. [One also hopes that] the remaining carriers will come on board with this.

Do any Soylentils see immediate use cases in your areas? Any negatives to having this enabled that you perceive?

[1] If someone can identify the 1 script to whitelist in order to see the content (out of the 27 embedded in that page), that would be useful. I don't have the patience for pages constructed by idiots who don't understand "Degrades gracefully".

Previous: Small Broadcasters: FM Switch-Off is Premature
Norway to be First Nation to Switch Off National Analog FM Stations


Original Submission

Related Stories

Norway to be First Nation to Switch Off National Analog FM Stations 53 comments

The Government of Norway announces

[April 16], the Ministry of Culture announced a national FM-switch off, to complete the transition to digital radio. Norway is making [a] historical move into a new radio era, being the first country in the world to decide upon an analogue switch-off for all major radio channels. With DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) and digital radio, listeners will be provided with more radio channels and greater diversity in content.

[...]The DAB-coverage in Norway now exceeds FM-coverage. DAB provides Norway with 22 national channels, as opposed to five channels transmitting nationwide on FM.

[...]Switch-off starts in Nordland county 11th January 2017 and ends with the northernmost counties Troms and Finnmark [13th December] 2017.

Official announcement in Norwegian. Also covered at Ars Technica.

Small Broadcasters: FM Switch-Off is Premature 52 comments

El Reg reports

With digital reaching its audience targets, the government set a 2017 date for the death of analogue FM radio in [Norway].

[...]However, the Norwegian Local Radio Association disputes the communications ministry's figure, pointing instead to Norwegian Government Statistical Bureau data that "listening to DAB radio is presently limited to 19% on a daily basis."

In an e-mail sent to Vulture South [El Reg's Australian operation], the association says the Minister of Culture's announcement swept up DVB-T and Internet radio to claim that "digital listening" had hit the 50 per cent target that triggers an FM switch-off.

The association also notes that an all-DAB nation would provide a lot less service to motoring tourists without digital radios in their cars. "This proposed change means that most visitors will not be able to listen to national channels or public radio for emergency alerts, traffic or other important information", the group said in a media release e-mailed to El Reg. It claims that a focus on large broadcasters would leave FM investments by community radio stranded.

The local broadcasters are backed by the Progress Party, a partner in the coalition government in Norway, [as well as by] the Greens.

Related: Norway to be First Nation to Switch Off National Analog FM Stations

Samsung to "Unlock" FM Chip in Galaxy S9 and Future Smartphones 21 comments

Samsung says it will be unlocking the FM chips in its future smartphones:

Samsung and NextRadio on Wednesday announced the handset-maker will begin shipping phones in the US and Canada with the FM radio chip unlocked. Currently, Samsung was shipping some devices with the FM radio access unlocked, while others (often dependent upon carrier whims) had a locked FM radio chip.

An unlocked FM radio chip in a smartphone not only provides free access to local radio stations, but also, in emergency situations, access to important information.

What is NextRadio?

Emmis Communications is an American media conglomerate based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company owns radio stations and magazines in the United States and Slovakia.

[...] The NextRadio smartphone app was developed by Emmis, with support from the National Association of Broadcasters, to take advantage of mobile devices with activated internal FM receivers. NextRadio allows users of select FM-enabled smartphones to listen to live broadcast FM radio while receiving supplemental data such as album art, program information, and metadata over the internet. Launched in August 2013 through a radio industry agreement with Sprint Corporation, the app is available preloaded on select devices it is also available for download in the Google Play Store.

Do you need to use their app to access the FM chip? The press release says:

Market leaders like Samsung are taking the step of unlocking the FM Chip, which will allow Samsung users to connect directly with the NextRadio app, listen to their favorite local stations, and use less battery and less data than streaming radio apps.

Take "unlocked" with a grain of salt.

Previously: FCC Chairman Encourages Activation of FM Chips in Smartphones
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Calls on Apple to Activate Imaginary FM Chips

Related: Smartphone with FM Radio Tells Your Position
Developers Working to Get FM Radio Function Enabled in BQ Ubuntu Phones
Norway to Become 1st Country to Switch Off FM Radio


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @05:47PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @05:47PM (#275808)

    Commercial radio sucks.

    (insert some other emo saying here)

    • (Score: 1) by moylan on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:12PM

      by moylan (3063) on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:12PM (#275821)

      commercial radio is grand here in ireland. it could always be better but it gives, news, talk, music, documentaries. i wouldn't buy a phone without fm radio. i do use podcasts as well but for traffic cockups it's dead handy to have an up to date source supplying info as it comes in.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:18PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:18PM (#275826)

        It's terrible that many smartphones have an FM chip but no FM radio capability enabled. It should be considered anti-competitive.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @09:09PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @09:09PM (#275848)

        Yup. The "killer app" for this is real-time events.

        I remember a MAD Magazine feature around the time the first Walkman came out.
        A hipster was mocking the guy listening to a portable radio via an earphone with the hipster hyping how, using his bleeding-edge technology, he could make personalized music selections (using cassettes, heh).
        The guy with the radio pointed out that he was listening to a sporting event in progress.

        .
        As for the GP, yeah, for-profit commercial radio DOES suck around here.
        Really narrow formats and really narrow playlists.
        I also have a very low tolerance for radio personalities talking over the music.
        Local radio broadcasting that *is* decent:

        - Jazz -- NPR[1] affiliate (some Jazz-specific shows on 2 other NPR stations; one extended Jazz show on my Pacifica Radio affiliate; on rare occasions, I can receive the NPR Jazz station out of San Diego for a short time)

        [1] Formerly "National Public Radio"; full of mentions of names of corporate sponsors

        - Smooth Jazz -- another NPR affiliate

        - Classical music -- another NPR affiliate

        - Music from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s (my favorite stuff); one weekly 3-hour show and one weekly 2-hour show; "Swing Time" two weekly 3-hour shows -- all on NPR affiliates

        - The only local station that still plays *real* Country Music--parts of a single weekly 2-hour show -- another NPR affiliate

        - Prairie Home Companion; Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me (quiz show based on recent "news" events); Ask Me Another (fun quiz show) -- another NPR affiliate

        - My station for news analysis -- A Pacifica Radio affiliate (Listener-funded; unlike NPR, absolutely no corporate "underwriting")

        The only "commercial" station that is tolerable for long stretches is KOCI-LP (Blues and Rock 'n' Roll).
        It is a "community radio" station set up under a special federal licensing program.
        The LP is for Low Power (43 watts).
        Sometimes the powerful station in San Diego on the same frequency walks all over it.
        Much of their music is automated and has no tune name / artist announcements and they don't have a real-time What's Playing Now page online. (They say they're working on that.)

        All of these public (and quasi-public) radio outlets have enough dough to stream their content but I can imagine stations in smaller towns not being able to afford that.

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday December 14 2015, @08:49PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Monday December 14 2015, @08:49PM (#276322)

          It is the sacred duty of federal politicians to defund Big Bird on PBS and also terminate NPR, this atrocious commie-inspired competition to the good American values of proper corporate radio meganetworks.

      • (Score: 2) by gawdonblue on Sunday December 13 2015, @09:22PM

        by gawdonblue (412) on Sunday December 13 2015, @09:22PM (#275851)

        I'll second that FM radio in Ireland is very, very good. I spent a couple of weeks driving around Ireland in July with my family and we were all impressed.

        The music was generally fantastic, if a little bit parochial (most places play a lot of their own music, particularly New Zealand) and most of the presenters were quite good i.e. they stayed out of the way and let their music and guests do the talking.

        What was best however, was that we learned more about what was really going on in the world in those two weeks than I have in a couple of years of listening to news at home (Australia). The main reason for this is that stories are covered in-depth from all sides and not just from the press releases from major political parties. For Irish issues this would indeed involve politicians from two or three parties but also affected citizens and foreigners. For world issues, contributing factors of the current situation and possible risks and rewards of the various options available were thoroughly discussed. It was amazing. My assumption is that it is this way because so much civil conflict has occurred that politicians are fundamentally untrusted and must argue their case even to their own supporters. If only this level of argument was required of politicians everywhere...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:17PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:17PM (#275824)

      I had one of the early phones that had it all hooked up (droidx). It worked very poorly. The 10 dollar radio on my desk worked better. I could get 1-2 stations on the phone. With the cheapo radio I could get 20-30. Of course that was years ago maybe it is better now. But I would not hold my breath for the device guys making it much better than that.

      I now just buy a 128gig sd card slap a bunch of music on it and hit random. Same effect and mostly stuff I like and no commercial breaks.

      The current deal I have heard is pretty much if it has a qualcomm chipset it has one. Very few actually hook it up. Probably have to pay qualcomm an extra amount of money per device if they do.

      Good for at&t trying to push it across all their devices.

      • (Score: 2) by Dr Spin on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:24PM

        by Dr Spin (5239) on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:24PM (#275831)

        Here in the UK, we have Radio 4 - "intelligent" talk radio. Some of it is worth listening to.

        We also have pirate stations which cater to ethnic tastes (something mainstream media
        is incapable of).

        --
        Putting your data in the cloud is like sending your teenage daughter backpacking in a 3rd world country with a pimp
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:37PM (#275834)

        Did you plug in an antenna? Some are wired to use the headphone jack as an antenna, some may need plugged into the USB. It depends how the antenna was wired... if it was wired at all.

        • (Score: 1) by daver!west!fmc on Sunday December 13 2015, @10:16PM

          by daver!west!fmc (1391) on Sunday December 13 2015, @10:16PM (#275874)

          On the HTC EVO 4G, the FM radio app tells you that you don't have anything plugged into the headphone jack, until you plug something in, then it turns the FM receiver on.

          And then, well, results vary based on qualities of your headset that are kind of difficult to identify prior to purchase, and the station you are trying to listen to, and its reception situation as you move about. It does work better for O(10KW) transmitters than it does for lower-powered transmitters, so perhaps it should not surprise you that FreeRadioOnMyPhone.org has as sponsors National Public Radio and the National Association of Broadcasters.

          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Monday December 14 2015, @01:06AM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 14 2015, @01:06AM (#275933) Journal

            it has nothing to do with the quality of your headset.

            It has a lot to do with how far you've extended your headset wires and the direction in which they are deployed.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Sunday December 13 2015, @10:19PM

          by jmorris (4844) <jmorrisNO@SPAMbeau.org> on Sunday December 13 2015, @10:19PM (#275875)

          I have tried the FM radio on two phones with the factory supplied earphones. Both shipped with an FM Radio app and had dialog boxes informing you that the earphones had to be connected to have an antenna but would in fact allow you to play the music itself out the itty bitty speaker if you wanted. Neither picked up a single station clear enough to bother when indoors, and only if you held it just right outside. Kinda pointless.

          Blu Tango and LG Optimus 4X HD btw, one an ultra cheap Qualcom based device and the other a flagship Nvidia Tegra + BCM4330 WiFi/BT/FM chip.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14 2015, @04:21PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14 2015, @04:21PM (#276161)

          Yes I had it plugged in (as per the instructions that came in the box). Without the head set it got a sum total of 0 stations. With the headset 1-2. Outside I may get 3-4.

          It was rather underwhelming.

          if it was wired at all
          That was kinda my point. Dont expect much.

      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:36PM

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:36PM (#275900)

        Having an SD card full of music is no help if I want to listen to the cricket test, now is it?

        Neil Wagner bowled Angelo Mathews to leave Sri Lanka 224/6 by the way.

        Just in case you're interested.

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by Pino P on Monday December 14 2015, @05:38PM

        by Pino P (4721) on Monday December 14 2015, @05:38PM (#276206) Journal

        I now just buy a 128gig sd card slap a bunch of music on it

        How much does it cost to buy enough music to fill that card?

    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:22PM

      by hemocyanin (186) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:22PM (#275829)

      Sure it does, but there are gazillions of cars on the road that don't have bluetooth or an audio jack built into the stereo. What would be extra interesting is if the FM capabilities in these systems include transmit functions so you can play your own content through your car stereo, kind of like how you can with one of these things: http://www.amazon.com/Griffin-iTrip-Dock-Connector-White/dp/B0012BHZOU [amazon.com]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @06:01PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @06:01PM (#275810)

    Like "Amber Alerts"
    Report this car to "The Man" if you see it, slaves.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by davester666 on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:19PM

      by davester666 (155) on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:19PM (#275827)

      Yes, we desperately need this functionality, because there is no other way for these Amber Alert messages to be sent to a mobile phone. Naturally, people will also be required to be listening to the radio on the phone while they are awake.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:42PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:42PM (#275902)

        You can get Amber alerts in your area delivered to your cellphone. All you have to do is sign up at http://www.missingkids.com/AmberSignUp [missingkids.com] It works very well, no spam and you only get alerts in your area.

        • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Monday December 14 2015, @06:03AM

          by davester666 (155) on Monday December 14 2015, @06:03AM (#275998)

          This is clearly false, because we need this vital FM radio functionality to receive Amber Alerts on our cell phones.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Appalbarry on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:32PM

    by Appalbarry (66) on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:32PM (#275832) Journal

    It's true that Radio FM functions have been available on older devices, but modern devices are not doing it....

    Say what? Pretty much every phone I've had recently has had FM built in. I've never used it, but it has been there. Most recently along with about a dozen Motorola branded things that I assume I have no use for.

    That said, radio is one of those things that the Internet has yet to replace for any number of reasons.

    It's very local - something that the 'net still doesn't do well. Try finding local emergency information on the 'net. Maybe Twitter will do it, but more often you're out of luck, or buried in a sea of misinformation repeated endlessly.

    It requires extremely minimal tech on the receiving end -a $5 battery radio will do fine. Or even an insanely overpriced wind-up affair.
    Even the transmitting end requires relatively small infrastructure. As long as you have a back up generator and a way to get audio to it, an FM station can continue to function long after the phone and cel services are dead.

    Maintaining Internet takes a lot of infrastructure to cover a small city. FM radio needs one rack of gear plus an antenna to do the same thing.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @09:27PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @09:27PM (#275854)

      I've never used it

      So, you can't verify for us that it actually functions on any of those.

      but it has been there.

      I remember from when I was still using Windoze that in the file manager you could right-click the C: drive and it would offer as a menu item "Format".
      It didn't actually work, but it was listed.
      There's a lot of sloppy design|coding|QA out there.

      -- gewg_

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:13PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:13PM (#275886)
        My old Nokia 5800 XM had radio. I used it a lot.
        My current BQ Aquaris E5 has a radio app that came with the phone, called "Radio FM". I've used it and it works pretty much the same like the Nokia.

        Wtf is this article talking about?
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:51PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:51PM (#275903)

          a radio app

          ...which allows you to *stream* digital bits **across the Net**.
          If your internet provider goes down, you lose "radio".

          That internet radio paradigm also requires your radio station to have a stream.
          Some don't.

          Wtf is this article talking about?

          A radio receiver that grabs analog radio waves and demodulates them.
          That is built into the chipset--but not accessed by the (Android) OS to adjust the tuning or to process the audio.
          (See the post by frojack, below.)

          With this, if your internet provider goes down, you DON"T lose radio--unless the radio station also stops broadcasting.

          -- gewg_

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:56PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:56PM (#275906)

            Receiving analog radio signals from the radio station also doesn't count against your bandwidth cap.

            -- gewg_

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14 2015, @01:24AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14 2015, @01:24AM (#275941)

            Don't be an even bigger idiot than normal, --gewg_.

            The radio app called "Radio FM" is used to *stream* analog modulations **across the VHF broadcast band**.

            It's exactly what it says on the tin, and of course wouldn't work on a phone without appropriate hardware and drivers to receive FM radio. But since the phone he references does have the hardware and drivers, along with the "Radio FM" app to use them, it works just fine, to the surprise of nobody but you.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:26PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:26PM (#275894) Journal

      Exactly, its there, it works, (but usually only with headphones, because it uses the wired headphones as an antenna).

      All our HTC and Motorola phones have this.

      This has nothing to do with Google. It has everything to do with the Chipset Manufacturers. Typically this is bundled into the WiFI/Bluetooth/FMradio chipset, and the driver supplied by that manufacturer is responsible to export that audio layer. Usually
      the chip itself exports the audio (either digitally or analog) and the phone manufacturer does what it wants with it.

      Not a Blame Google problem.

      Works great to listen to some music from the various college and classical stations without burning any data, and almost zero battery usage as well.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:17PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @11:17PM (#275888)

    I put a digital AM/FM/MP3/CD head unit in my car last year, the difference between digital and analog stations is very noticeable. When it loses the digital signal it automatically tunes in the analog version. It's CD quality. There's no reason you couldn't have that already built into a cellphone.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Valkor on Monday December 14 2015, @12:09AM

      by Valkor (4253) on Monday December 14 2015, @12:09AM (#275911) Homepage

      Yes there is. Consumers might listen to the free FM radio instead of using Google Play or Pandora or any other revenue generating scheme.

      AND THAT IS WHY PHONES DON'T HAVE FM RADIO. Money.